Michigan Football recently wrapped up their annual spring practice session and we now know more about how the team might look come August 30th, when the Wolverines host Central Michigan in their opener. Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges have always wanted to run a pro-style offense, but they deferred that while they had Denard Robinson at quarterback. With Devin Gardner, the coaching staff has a quarterback who can direct the pro-style attack. Here’s how things are looking as Michigan heads into summer conditioning.
Devin Gardner has assumed a leadership role on this team. He was already one of the most revered players on the roster. Last year at media day he was the runaway leader for the funniest guy on the team and the best-dressed Wolverine. Gardner started at quarterback for the last five games of the 2012 season and was a revelation. He was twice named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. Against Iowa, Gardner became the first Wolverine to account for six touchdowns since Steve Smith (1983). He finished the season with 1,219 yards passing with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 101 yards and seven TDs. Gardner is poised for a breakout season.
Russell Bellomy was slated to back up Gardner, but he suffered a torn ACL in spring practice. Now that duty will likely fall to true freshman Shane Morris. Preferred walk-on Brian Cleary could also factor into the mix at the back up position.
Fitzgerald Toussaint is making good progress as he recovers from a broken leg that he suffered six months ago in the Iowa game. If he isn’t ready to go look for one of Michigan’s freshman backs to take the reins. Derrick Green, who was considered by many the top high school running back in the nation last year, figures to get plenty of carries this fall. The 6-foot, 215 pound Green recently tweeted that he is running the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds. Don’t count out DeVeon Smith, like his fellow frosh Green, he is a big, powerful back who fits Michigan’s preferred running scheme perfectly. The coaches are also high on redshirt freshman Drake Johnson and Thomas Rawls is still battling for playing time.
Wide Receivers/Tight ends
Jeremy Gallon will be the grizzled veteran of Michigan’s young receiving corps. Last year, Gallon led Michigan in receptions (49) and receiving yards (829). He also hauled in 4 touchdowns and has a good rapport with Gardner. Drew Dileo has made some clutch catches for the Wolverines and is an underrated member of this group. Sophomore Amara Darboh and redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson both performed well in the spring and one or both of them could have breakout seasons.
Devin Funchess was very impressive last year and showed a penchant for making big plays. His star should continue to rise this year. AJ Williams is a tremendous blocking tight end and true freshman and early enrollee Jake Butt caught a TD pass in the spring game. This should be a position of strength for years to come under Hoke and Borges.
The line will be book-ended by a pair of future NFL linemen in seniors Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. Lewan of course turned down the NFL to return for his fifth season of eligibility and should establish himself as one of Michigan’s all-time best offensive linemen by the end of the season. Schofield is a very good lineman as well and combined with Lewan gives Michigan the best set of tackles in the Big Ten.
The interior of the line will be manned by three new starters. The guards are likely to be a pair of highly touted redshirt freshmen, Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden. Both of those players are going to be four year starters for the Wolverines. Braden may move to tackle next year. The center position is up for grabs. Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow saw most of the action there in the spring game.
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